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Fast Talk: Adidas's Fake-Out Artist

Ray Tai

Assistant General Counsel, Adidas
Hong Kong, China

Ray Tai, 44, is the intellectual-property enforcer in Asia for Adidas, which as an Olympic sponsor has the exclusive rights to sell Olympic-branded sportswear for the upcoming Games. Adidas is the only major athletic shoemaker with IP attorneys based full time in China.

"The Olympics will be the ultimate test when it comes to counterfeit goods. All sponsors of the Games are stepping up their enforcement efforts now—or they should be, because they'll get hit more than nonsponsors, that's for sure.

I am very proud to say that, right now, if you go to any large or midsize city in China, you can't find any fake Adidas. We want to keep it that way. Our strategy is to raid wholesalers, or even the retailers. Typically, companies raid the counterfeiting factories. That gets a big splash in the paper, but it's a waste of money. At the factory, shoes may be worth only a few dollars a pair. But at the wholesale and retail levels, they're worth a lot more. That's where you can make a much bigger financial dent. There's an incentive for them not to buy fakes anymore. We ordered more than 1,000 raids last year. We'll probably start seeing Olympic fakes surface six months or so before the Games. We'll be hiring extra security to watch for them. For now, we've found a way to deter the problem. I am a strong believer in prevention. Most lawyers are too bogged down with crime and punishment."

A version of this article appeared in the September 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.